In our recent 2nd visit to the lovely YTL resort, The Majestic Malacca, I was delighted to note that the hotel’s main restaurant, The Mansion has now adopted a new concept. It used to serve a mix of western and Peranakan favourites but now has been re-branded as “Melba at The Mansion” serving Malaccan-Portuguese cuisine known as “Kristang” cuisine. It’s helmed by Chef Melba Nunis who’s proud of her Kristang lineage. Born and bred in Malacca, Chef Melba has been exposed to Kristang cuisine since she was a child and learned the intricacies of cooking the dishes from her grandmother and mother.
Owner of “Simply Mel’s” Restaurant and author of award-winning cookbook “A Kristang Family Cookbook”, Chef Melba is very passionate about preserving her cultural legacy. The recipes to the dishes she cooks at The Mansion came from her mother and are kept close to her heart.
A bit of background information about the Kristang people in Malacca. They are descendants of the Dutch and Portuguese settlers who came to the city in the 16th-17th century. What’s interesting is their cuisine which not only has Dutch-Portuguese influences, it is also a mixed merry pot of British and Peranakan cooking with inspiration from local Malay, Indian and Chinese spices and flavours. Hence it’s not surprising that Kristang cuisine is characterised by fiery sambals, fragrant spices, delicate vegetables and aromatic coconut milk.
The old-world charm of The Mansion exuded a certain kind of nostalgia for me – it reminded me very much of the old wooden house I used to stay in Ipoh during my childhood days. Those arched wooden doorways and window frames looked so familiar. It’s easy to get lost on those fond memories until I was jolted back to the present with the serving of a variety of Chef Melba’s signature dishes.
The names of the dishes were unfamiliar to me – they are in Kristang, I believe but of course, more was elaborated in the descriptions.
We started off with some appetizers…
Karing Karing Fretu (RM20) crispily-fried Silver Threadfish
Ichimintu Karangezu (RM60) baked stuffed crab with vegetables, chicken and prawns
The following dishes were best eaten with some plain rice…
Kari Keluak (RM75) – chicken in nutty keluak curry
Ambiller Kacang (RM50) – simmered beef slices and long beans in tangy curry
Tambrinhyu (RM50) pan-fried prawns in tamarind sauce
Karangezu kung Kambrang (RM35) – omelette with crabmeat and prawns
Kangkung Belacan (RM35)
Sambal Terung (RM35) – aubergine lightly fried with dried prawns sambal
Papa Vincent’s Chorka Pretu (RM130) slow-cooked squid in squid-ink sambal
We couldn’t resist checking out Chef Melba’s special laksa – Kaldu Laksa Malaka and oh my, it turned out to be a very generous portion. Two or three people could easily share that huge bowl of laksa!
Kaldu Laksa Malaka (RM35) rice vermicelli in spicy curry broth with seafood and chicken
Dessert: Pulut kung Kaya (RM25) – steamed glutinous rice in coconut milk served with Chef Melba’s homemade coconut jam (kaya)
Savouring the dishes, I could appreciate that they were cooked with a good assortment of spices and herbs from the different cuisine mix. Kristang cuisine, although influenced by other ethnic cuisines, retains its own unique identity and you just have to try it to appreciate its distinctive flavours. Chef Melba’s interpretation came with a lot of heart as after all, these were the dishes well loved by her family.
Melba at The Mansion is open daily for lunch from 12.00pm to 3.00pm and dinner from 7.00pm to 10.30pm.
MELBA AT THE MANSION
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya